Comedian Luisa Omielan is on a mission to educate young people about politics and the reason it’s so important with her BBC show and accompanying live tour; “Politics for Bitches”. This latest venture is just one of Omielan’s many successful comedic projects since breaking onto the scene a mere six years ago.
She first came to public attention as the underground smash hit of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012 , where she performed her critically-acclaimed debut solo show; “What Would Beyonce Do?!“ The show’s success spawned a book by the same name and was soon followed up with sophomore show “Am I Right Ladies?!” Not only has she toured globally as a comedian, but she has a strong social conscience and set up the charity Helena’s Hospice Foundation after her mother’s own battle with Cancer.
To celebrate her BAFTA Breakthrough Brits nomination, Omielan pencilled us in for a chat about starting out on the open-mic circuit, comedy as a vehicle for social change, and why Beyoncé is the true icon of our times.
How did you first get started in comedy?
I started when I was younger, I did sketches and improvisation, and then I started stand up at university. I did it for about a year or so. Then I didn’t pick it up again until I was about 25 on the open mic circuit in London, travelling in after temp jobs.
How would you describe your stage persona? Is there a clear separation between your work self and your off-stage self?
My stage persona is my ultimate true self. I feel really at home and very much myself. I find that in real life I have to bring it down a notch to blend in.
You came to many people’s attention with your show and book “What Would Beyoncé Do?”. In your opinion, what makes Beyoncé such an icon of our times?
She’s so talented. As a singer, as a writer, as a composer of music, and her dance routines. She’s so feel good, she makes people feel good. Her music is iconic songs which are part of the fabric of people’s life. There’s certain songs, like “Crazy in Love” or “Single Ladies” which are part of the soundtrack to people’s lives. She makes people want to dance and have a good time but she’s also been such a good role model. She’s always been so untouchable. So good and scandal-free and private. Proper old school, Hollywood iconic. Only in recent years has she been more open with her personal life.
I saw a tweet from someone saying that your first show made them rethink their opinions on mental health, your second second show made you rethink their opinions on body image, and that your third show made them want them to change the world. As a comedian, do you feel the need to use your platform to discuss social issues?
It wasn’t ever my intention. That was just a byproduct of talking about my life and it became part of a bigger, grander thing. I think that’s because when you’re talking to a large group of people, themes or stories do hit a nerve and they are something that people can identify with and share. And they can be like “that’s happened to me” or “I have experience of that.” Therefore it becomes not just a story about my depression, or about how I feel about myself, or about my mother’s battle with Cancer. It becomes a story about mental health in general or about our perspectives on body image in general and our treatment of Cancer in general, because you’re talking to a large audience. So it was never the intention, that’s not what I’ve set out to do but it’s a happy coincidence. They’re all quite powerful shows and they touch on big issues. Comedy is an amazing vehicle to get people to be open and to share and be vulnerable.
Do you think that comedy can be a force for social change? Why?
Absolutely. I’ve seen that with my shows. There have been people who have said that their lives have changed after seeing my show, or comedy in general. The most obvious point of social change is that, with my previous show, I started a charity called Helena’s Hospice Foundation. We’ve raised and given away nearly 50,000 pounds to hospices for home comforts and goods; beds, baths, coffee machines, heaters, Netflix subscriptions, children’s play area equipment. I guess that’s a bit of social change, and it’s helping people practically.
I think by now, we all know that women can be hilarious. However, what do you think that a feminine perspective can bring to comedy which a male perspective might not offer?
Yeah, the perspective of half the planet.
You’re currently touring with your show “Politics for Bitches” — would you care to explain more about the show to our readers?
If you have no interest in politics whatsoever and you’ve never cared for it, this show is for you. If you know anything about politics or are really into it, I’d just stay at home because it’s actually not for you. It’s a show to give a perspective and a really basic insight into a tiny bit of politics. It’s also having a bit of fun breaking down some generic concepts.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
To keep touring, to write a TV sitcom narrative, to write a film script, and to see what happens.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
That’s impossible to answer because I just think; “who knows what can happen?” I’ve got not idea, but hopefully I’ll be happy and healthy.